Heidy Quah , Malaysia
Heidy founded Refuge for the Refugees to help refugees in Malaysia access basic education facilities and equip them with entrepreneurial skills so that they can generate income for their families. Heidy founded 10 refugee schools across Malaysia and 25 schools across Myanmar, each with 70 to 80 children. Over 2,500 children have benefited from this schooling system, which has a strong emphasis on leadership development. Refugees in Malaysia are unable to access public services such as schooling and healthcare, and they do not have a legal status that allows them to work. Some families stay in Malaysia for up to 15 years before moving to an alternative location that provides them the rights and protections that allow them to create a new life for themselves. Refuge for the Refugees runs schools for these disadvantaged children, enabling them to achieve internationally recognised qualifications that can help them seek better opportunities. Heidy teaches students how to start their own businesses alongside their studies since refugees are unable to access jobs in Malaysia.
As well as teaching children entrepreneurial skills, Refuge for the Refugees gives refugee communities support to run their own businesses, encouraging innovation and self-sustainability. One such project is a baking school, where mothers use the platform provided by the organisation to sell their baked goods. This led to a partnership with the popular Malaysian coffee chain Espressolab, which agreed to sell the baked goods in their stores. Another project is the Refugee Innovation Lab, where participants are encouraged to form their own practical solutions to problems arising in their communities. For example, when a new school needed furniture the parents learnt carpentry skills and made the tables and chairs themselves instead of buying the furniture from external sources. Refuge for the Refugees also works to combat negative perceptions of refugees through targeted awareness campaigns held in universities and shopping malls.